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Astros impressive in AL debut, rout Rangers in opener

CBSSports.com wire reports
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HOUSTON -- The Houston Astros and their spiffy new uniforms looked like a perfect fit in the American League.

Rick Ankiel and the Astros made an impressive debut in the AL, trouncing the Texas Rangers 8-2 Sunday night in the major league opener and giving Bo Porter a win in his first game as manager.

"To come out with a win is perfect," Astros designated hitter Carlos Pena said. "To be part of it is really cool. To play our rivals here in Texas and to come out on top today, it's a treat."

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Ankiel launched a pinch-hit three-run shot for the majors' first homer this season, Bud Norris pitched well for the win and Erik Bedard threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings for his first career save.

Having switched from the National League to the AL in the offseason, the Astros earned their first opening day victory since 2006 and the 4,000th regular-season win in franchise history.

The Astros are coming off consecutive 100-loss seasons and has the lowest payroll in the majors, prompting many to predict they will be the worst team in the majors. But Houston opened in style wearing uniforms that brought back the orange and blue of old-school Astros teams.

After the game, rapper Drake's rags-to-riches hit "Started from the Bottom" played on a loop in the clubhouse. Houston, which has finished last in the majors each of the last two seasons, decided the song would be its postgame music after wins this season.

Justin Maxwell added a pair of triples and made a nifty catch in center field.

Norris (1-0) allowed five hits and two runs with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. He was one of five Astros making their first opening day start on baseball's second-youngest team.

"To sit at 1-0 right now feels pretty darn good, and we've just got to go back out there on Tuesday and play some more baseball," Norris said.

Bedard shut down the Rangers on one hit the rest of the way for his first save in a 10-season career.

Porter, who at 40 is baseball's youngest manager, insisted all spring that this team would be much better than last season.

"It's more about the concepts that we've implemented," Porter said. "They do a great job with the information we provide and it allows them to play with confidence and allows them to play fast."

As Houston began a new era with the move to the AL, the Rangers were embarking on a new chapter without 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton. Along with Hamilton's departure to the Angels, Texas also lost catcher Mike Napoli and infielder Michael Young.

The loss snapped a streak of four straight opening day victories by the Rangers. Former Astros star Lance Berkman had two hits in his first game as Texas' designated hitter.

"I think there have been some people who have been disparaging in their analysis of their talent level, but this is the major leagues, and any team is capable of beating any other team on a given night," Berkman said.

He isn't worried about their offense coming around.

"If you look at the back of our baseball cards, I think we're pretty stinking good," he said.

Matt Harrison (0-1), who signed a $55 million contract this offseason, yielded six hits and five runs and tied a career high with nine strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

Maxwell's two-out triple in the fourth inning broke a scoreless tie and gave Houston a 2-0 lead. The ball bounced off the wall in left field and scored Brett Wallace and Carlos Pena, who both got on with singles. Umpires reviewed the play to make sure it wasn't a home run, and upheld the call.

An error by right fielder Nelson Cruz let Houston score a run in the fifth, and Jose Altuve singled home another.

Harrison put runners at first and second with walks in the sixth and was replaced by Derek Lowe with two outs. Ankiel, the one-time pitcher with St. Louis, connected on his fifth career pinch-hit homer, a full-count shot to right field that made it 7-2.

Norris had a tough second inning and had to use 26 pitches to escape, striking out Mitch Moreland. Norris got on a roll from there, retiring nine of the next 10 batters.

Norris ran into trouble in the sixth when Ian Kinsler drew a walk and Berkman hit a one-out single. Murphy's two-out single sent Kinsler home to make it 4-1. Cruz followed with a groundball single that rolled just out of reach of diving shortstop Ronny Cedeno to score Berkman and chase Norris.

Chants of "Cruuuuuuuz" filled the stadium, indicating the large number of Rangers fans who made the 250-mile trip from Dallas. Norris was replaced by Erik Bedard, who is Houston's fifth starter, but won't be needed for a while in the rotation because of off-days.

Notes

  • Altuve got the first hit of the 2013 season.
  • These teams have a day off Monday before resuming the series on Tuesday when the Rangers' Yu Darvish opposes Lucas Harrell.
  • Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, the NFL's defensive player of the year, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Watt, who said he threw a bullpen session to prepare for the task, threw a strike.
  • Texans star receiver Andre Johnson was also in the sold-out crowd of 41,307.
  • Lyle Lovett performed the national anthem.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Rick Ankiel (right) helps the Astros prevail in their AL debut with a pinch-hit three-run homer in the sixth. (AP)
Rick Ankiel (right) helps the Astros prevail in their AL debut with a pinch-hit three-run homer in the sixth. (AP)

Players of the Game
Houston

J. Maxwell
AB 3
R 2
H 2
HR 0
RBI 2
Texas

N. Cruz
AB 3
R 0
H 2
HR 0
RBI 1
 
Texas Rangers
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Ian Kinsler, 2B3100100 .000
Elvis Andrus, SS4000021 .000
Lance Berkman, DH4120010 .500
Adrian Beltre, 3B4000003 .000
David Murphy, LF3011101 .333
Nelson Cruz, RF3021101 .667
A.J. Pierzynski, C4010013 .250
Mitch Moreland, 1B4000013 .000
Leonys Martin, CF3000020 .000
Totals3226237  
Batting
RBI - David Murphy (1), Nelson Cruz (1)
2-OUT RBI - David Murphy (1), Nelson Cruz (1)
CS - David Murphy (1, 2nd base by Norris/Castro)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
E - Nelson Cruz (1, Misplayed grounder)
Texas Rangers
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Matt Harrison (L,0-1) 5.2665390 7.94
Derek Lowe 0.1111011 27.00
Jason Frasor 1000010 0.00
Joe Ortiz 1211020 9.00
Pitches-Strikes - Matt Harrison 100-61, Derek Lowe 10-7, Jason Frasor 9-6, Joe Ortiz 15-12
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Matt Harrison 2-5, Jason Frasor 2-0, Joe Ortiz 1-0
Batters Faced - Matt Harrison 25, Derek Lowe 2, Jason Frasor 3, Joe Ortiz 5
Houston Astros
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Jose Altuve, 2B4021000 .500
Brett Wallace, 1B4110031 .250
Chris Carter, LF4000022 .000
Carlos Pena, DH4110030 .250
Justin Maxwell, CF3222100 .667
Jason Castro, C4000013 .000
Matt Dominguez, 3B3111110 .333
Brandon Barnes, RF1100110 .000
   a- Rick Ankiel, PH-RF2113011 .500
Ronny Cedeno, SS3110010 .333
Totals32897313  
a-homered for Barnes in the 6th
Batting
3B - Justin Maxwell 2 (2, Harrison, Ortiz)
HR - Rick Ankiel (1, Lowe)
RBI - Jose Altuve (1), Justin Maxwell 2 (2), Matt Dominguez (1), Rick Ankiel 3 (3)
2-OUT RBI - Justin Maxwell 2 (2), Matt Dominguez (1), Rick Ankiel 3 (3)
Team LOB - 3
Houston Astros
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Bud Norris (W,1-0) 5.2522350 3.18
Erik Bedard (S,1) 3.1100020 0.00
Pitches-Strikes - Bud Norris 97-59, Erik Bedard 38-26
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Bud Norris 2-9, Erik Bedard 4-4
Batters Faced - Bud Norris 24, Erik Bedard 11
Game Information
Attendance - 41307
Game Time - 3:00
Temperature - 73
Umpires - Home - Sam Holbrook, First Base - Paul Nauert, Second Base - Andy Fletcher, Third Base - Chris Conroy